It was just one piece of important advice shared by industry figures at Seatrade Cruise Global today during the ‘A Future in Cruise’ keynote moderated by Paul Rutterford, operations director, Viking Crew. Sponsored by Kadmos, the session was part of the event’s newly launched ‘Tomorrow’s Talent Today’ programme.

Lockwood had early ambitions to become a lawyer, but a chance encounter with a Cunard ship led him to back out of pursuing studies in law. He told spectators that the number of applications to join its first ship reached 45,000. ‘Ritz Carlton aims to get the top 1% of people in hospitality globally, for 265 positions,’ he explained. ‘The key is being able to retain and grow that talent.’ 

He went on to point out that Ritz looks for the ‘ORCAs’: ‘optimistic, relentless, curious, adaptable’ personality traits.

As well as the ability to lead by example, with a ‘player-coach mentality,’ he pointed out the unique camaraderie that comes with a life at sea. ‘It gives you a bond that I have never had the opportunity to experience anywhere else… For me, that’s what’s most exhilarating about life at sea,’ he added.

Be nimble

‘Be nimble’ said Antigua Cruise Port’s GM Dona Prosper. The same skills needed onboard are required shoreside, too, with employees required to adapt their approach to suit high-end passengers aboard luxury cruise ships when they disembark, as well as use the right approach for larger ships whose passengers’ needs could be different.

‘In the summertime – our slowest season – we spend a lot of time training our team members,’ Prosper said. ‘We have a programme called ‘Summer Cool’ where we… talk about the industry and the differences in what passengers are looking for. If crew members are not happy, then that transfers to the passengers. So, we ensure that we try to take care of crew members.’

Significantly, she advised listeners to ‘focus’; the job may involve exciting opportunities that serve as distractions without the right level of discipline. The GM spoke of her own journey into cruise, after previous ambitions to become a journalist, followed by a successful job in accounting, were put aside for a career in cruise. Accounting ‘was very boring… it was not my passion,’ she realized. She took a pay cut to enter the cruise scene, clocking up experience in port roles across the Caribbean, from her home country of St Lucia to the British Virgin Islands to Jamaica.

Bring your authentic self

Virgin Voyages wants employees who ‘bring their authentic self to the table’ asserted the brand’s director of experience, international operations and special events, Alex Zeitz, who began his cruise line career as a dancer for Holland America Line. Free broadband for crew as well as for passengers, and a dedicated crew engagement manager coordinating shore experiences for crew members, are perks that are combined with an ethos ‘to let employees know their voices are heard.’

His main piece of advice to those aspiring for a career in cruise is, ‘say yes to everything’ and to seize all opportunities.

The line has a high, 90% inclusivity rating: ‘The secret sauce comes in letting people be themselves,’ Zeitz said.

Immersive experiences, zero-tolerance to bullying

‘Crew can enjoy the destination, they can explore the world,’ said Michelle Dunn, HR director,  Azamara, explaining that the brand spends longer at ports for full ‘destination immersion.’

She reassured those attending the session that the line has a zero-tolerance to bullying. With a HR team onboard its ships and a welfare department, it takes the mental health of its crews seriously, and officers set an example that everyone should be treated with respect.

Dunn, born and raised in Ecuador, started out in cruise food and beverage before finding her vocation.

She revealed that the attributes needed for a successful career in cruise have changed since the pandemic, with people stepping back to reevaluate their chosen careers. She said, ‘data is even more important now than ever.’ The line conducts engagement surveys to find out what employees are looking for. She said, as a result of Covid, it has become about more than providing ‘good benefits to our employees, but we also want to look at their mental health, a more holistic approach.’

‘I think it is important that we’re constantly checking and doing those surveys so that we can do things that are meaningful from the employees to the crew,’ she said.